The Tech - Online EditionMIT's oldest and largest
newspaper & the first
newspaper published
on the web
Boston Weather: 55.0°F | Overcast
Article Tools

The Affordable Care Act doesn’t poll particularly well. On the campaign trail, saying “I’m going to end Obamacare” is an easy applause line for Republican presidential candidates. It ignites social conservatives like the Catholic bishop of Oakland, who will be protesting its contraception coverage provisions Friday in San Francisco.

None of that matters to President Obama’s re-election campaign. It is not backing away from the signature achievement of Obama’s first term, it is embracing it.

But despite generating a lot of passion among the most partisan voters on both sides of the issue, analysts say the health care law is not going to be a deal-breaker or deal-maker in the fall elections. Instead, both parties are using intense feelings about the new law as political kerosene to ignite excitement — and bring out votes — among their base supporters.

With the second anniversary of Obama signing the act into law today and the Supreme Court preparing to hear a legal challenge to the law next week, Obama supporters are touting it as something that will help the president remain in the White House.

Democrats are in full-court-press mode to show how the law will help Americans, from holding a rally in Sacramento on Wednesday to sending glossy mailers tailored to female voters in swing states this week.

Obama supporters are confident because polling shows that while many Americans may loathe or be indifferent to the law in general, they’re supportive of many of its individual provisions.

A nationwide survey released this month from the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation shows that 41 percent of voters hold favorable views of the law, 40 percent have unfavorable views and 19 percent don’t have an opinion.

But many of the law’s major provisions are popular. Voters generally like being able to keep their children on their health insurance until they are 26, or not being denied coverage because of a pre-existing condition.

Yet when pressed, many respondents are ignorant of the details of the law beyond the partisan sound bites.

Much of the visceral anger toward the health care law — nearly all of it coming from Republicans — is rooted in conservatives’ loathing of Washington.

The right views the health care law “as symbolic of big government and everything they hate,” said Drew Altman, president and CEO of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a health policy center based in Menlo Park that has done some of the most detailed analysis on the law and public attitudes toward its provisions.

Americans react most negatively to the law’s mandates that individuals and employers obtain health insurance or face penalties.

But many Americans still don’t even know what’s in the law.

The Kaiser survey found that six in 10 respondents “didn’t have enough information to understand how the law will impact them, and two-thirds say the law has not yet affected their family in either a positive or negative way,” according to the survey.